Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Super 8

Posted by ron On July - 2 - 2011

Ambitious kids in a small town desperately try to complete their zombie film unaware of the horrors the military tries to contain. Unfortunately the zombie film had more originality than Abrams' underwhelming Romeo and Juliet story.

Kids who fled an explosion while filming at a train station were unaware of precious military cargo that could threaten their quiet little town. If these tropes sound familiar, they are definitely reminiscent of Spielberg films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. Both films captivated childlike wonder mixed with fear of the unknown in a story that resolved itself neatly. Super 8 definitely accomplished the naïve friendship of troubled children who would do anything for each other including risking their lives. However the forbidden romance angle between the characters played by Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney and the overall theme of forgiveness supplanted the alien that was a major part of its viral marketing.

It’s been said, imitation is the best form of flattery but what does one call when a director tells a story in the tradition of the executive producer? Jean-Luc Godard once criticized Super 8 executive producer Steven Spielberg for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema. Whether or not it’s fair to hold Spielberg accountable for an entire generation of directors who are slaves to their nostalgic influences is subject to debate. What Super 8 delivered was a very sterile version of Spielberg-ian that definitely had the emotional center but nothing epic enough to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

Unlike her sister, Elle Fanning always had a knack for emotionally complex characters like Ruth Cole in the Door in the Floor (2004)

Director JJ Abrams’ streak for the right casting calls remained unblemished. He has a talent for the look of a film and for the faces. Super 8 anchored by Elle Fanning (Somewhere) played opposite Joel Courtney in a Romeo and Juliet themed kid romance during the 70s. Elle, the more talented Fanning sibling, had the heavier workload. Her character had to live with the weight of her father’s shame but also was his occasional verbal abuse toy. She had to convince us that her hatred of her father would later lead into forgiveness and also legitimately fall for a boy that was indirectly the source of her misery. The childlike behavior felt authentic in the casual scenes where kids hung out and had a rambling conversation without a narrative axis to support itself. It didn’t match itself in the fear department. The kids unconvincingly fled an exploding train wreck as if it was a morning jog. It was too easy to decry as kids running in front of a green screen. Likewise, it wasn’t at all convincing that kids wouldn’t feel any fear monster hunting or dodging the military. If their fear was unconvincing, the audience didn’t feel these likable characters were in sense of jeopardy. A lesson in film making 101 illustrated by Charles played by Riley Griffith. Unfortunately, the stronger narrative was in the zombie film that he completed.

By the time boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy makes peace with father, father makes peace with girl’s father, and boy saves girl had elapsed, the mystery involving the Space monster was a casually shoved in marketing tool that never lived up to the viral campaigning that it had promised. Super 8 was a nothing more than a forbidden kids’ romance. It didn’t have any elements of science fiction, the wonder with aliens, or any dimension to the creature. The extraterrestrial was so uninteresting that Charles’ zombie film had pushed it back to last in the hierarchy of importance.

In a film that was marketed so secretly and cleverly, Super 8 didn’t deliver on what it promised. By the time the locket left Joel’s fingers at the end, it was too late for any of the audience to leave a sterile homage of one of the most important American filmmakers of his generation.

Super 8 rated as a happy hour drink that was cost effective for what it delivered but nothing you felt compelled to return when better times return.



I'm serious with my coffee

The Rocketeer

Posted by Jose On June - 14 - 2011

We’re a month away from the release of Captain America: The First Avenger and currently in the middle of a comic book adaptation renaissance. And if fortune couldn’t smile upon us comic fans any further, we have a rare opportunity to look back at a time when adaptations weren’t money in the bank. It’s time to take a look back at a time when director Joe Johnston directed a movie based on a comic hero taking on the Nazi menace that wasn’t Captain America. Today we  look  at his first effort… The Rocketeer. Does it hold up today? Does it honor the comic it was based on? Does looking at this make you feel confident about his next film?

The film centers around Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who relies on his best friend/mechanic Peevy and his girlfriend Jenny to get him through the day, that is until he finds an experimental rocket pack.

Half the fun of this movie is seeing Cliff learn how to use the rocket pack. A pilot by trade, Cliff’s expertise is learning to control a piece of machinery to fly through the air. Once he puts on the rocket pack he is the machine. And through the use of visual effects and the score by James Horner, when Cliff puts on the rocket and first takes flight, you believe it even when he crash lands in mud.

The other fun half of this movie? The villains. Where as a film of this nature would give you one villain for our hero to overcome, this film gives you three! We have Eddie Valentine played by Paul Sorivino. Valentine’s a mobster whose gang is hired to steal the experimental rocket pack. As world famous actor of the silver screen, Timothy Dalton plays Neville Sinclair who is, in reality, a Nazi. Aiding his boss’ agenda is the deformed henchman Lothar. While Valentine and his goons seem to be a Maguffin simply to get the rocket to where Cliff is, both Sinclair and Lothar all the more enjoyable by the fact they’re based in some reality. Neville Sinclair’s character is a nod to the rumor that  Errol Flynn, star of stage and screen might have had ties to the Nazi party. Lothar’s physical appearance is a loving tribute to Rondo Hatton, B-movie star.

Like most movies at the time, the superhero alter-ego was usually saved for one big battle towards the end, and this film is no exception. The name “Rocketeer” is an invention of the newspapers when Cliff first puts on the helmet to save a friend in an air show earlier in the film. As the film progresses and Cliff realizes the importance of keeping the rocket out of the Nazi’s hands and eventually the Rocketeer comes through.

The cast is pretty good considering it was a lesser known character. You buy Billy Campbell as a young man who has the best of intentions but keeps screwing up. Alan Arkin as Peevy is very much an Alfred/Q character but the friendship he has with Cliff seems genuine, almost fatherly. Of course Jennifer Connelly is a knockout in this film as Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny. In a role that could’ve been nothing more than a damsel in distress, Connelly gives Jenny ambition. She’s a college girl with aspirations of becoming an actress.  But Timothy Dalton steals the show. His portrayal of a suave, charming actor hiding a dangerous secret is so hammy and over the top you can’t help but love it.

Before Jennifer Connelly set the record for playing females with issues, she was just a damsel in distress

Sadly, the film is considered to be something of a punch line considering how badly it bombed against expectations. It had to compete with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, City Slickers and of course, Terminator 2: Judgment Day; given the competition, it was no wonder the film didn’t perform as well as Disney would have hoped. And this is the biggest tragedy of this film. It’s so fun you wish it would have done better to see the story continue.

Another problem the film has is that it was part of a wave of failed pulp hero films that tried to start franchises. With the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, everyone wanted to try the superhero bandwagon. But with effects being what they were at the time and licensed characters being harder and harder to come by due to legal issues, Hollywood started mining lesser known characters. It started with The Rocketeer and continued with films like The Shadow, The Phantom and finally The Mask of Zorro. Although, to be fair, Zorro’s film made money and was a moderate success. All of these movies were fun films to see with the family, but sadly not enough families went to see them.

Strangely, twenty years after The Rocketeer, director Joe Johnston will release another film about a young man who dawns a costume to take on the Nazi menace. Okay, so instead of calling them Nazi’s it’s Hydra and instead of a rocket pack, the main hero has a shield, but the coincidence is staggering. Looking at The Rocketeer, it gives The Captain America film more of a hopeful vibe. Johnston knows how to incorporate action and a sense of wonder to the nineteen-thirties setting. This time he has a bigger budget and a more well known character, so time will tell if it’s a bomb or not. But, when July hits and you go to the theatre to see Captain America: The First Avenger, why not check out his first attempt to tackle the superhero genre. In fact, do it as a double feature. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Kungfu Panda 2

Posted by sean On June - 12 - 2011

Po channels the mighty power of Tenacious D as he faces an army of wolves led by a maniacal peacock.


DreamWorks brings back the animal kingdom of the Far East in their latest venture, Kungfu Panda 2.  While the company has been rather hit-and-miss with their animation, their first sequel outside of the Shrek franchise shows that they can still produce a film that is not a retread of the previous installment but a new, fun-filled chapter with a surprisingly deeper narrative.


Kungfu Panda 2 resumes the journey of Po, the jolly panda with a hefty appetite, as he has embraced his destiny as the Dragon Warrior and has been accepted by his companions, the Furious Five.  Yet with his newfound title, he confronts the mystery of his origins in a quest to defeat the evil Lord Shen and his weapons that have the power to “stop kungfu.”  Off the bat, the Kungfu Panda 2 retains close to the level of quality of the animation part one displayed.  It’s slightly improved in color and detail, and the template is given a chance to expand in scope as the characters are taken to new places, most impressively Gongmen City with its labyrinth streets and detailed architecture.  The film also incorporates animated segments that resemble Chinese shadow puppetry in several flashbacks, widening the range of stunning visuals beyond the computer graphics.


Paired nicely with the animation is the humor, which relies mostly on the witty writing and martial arts, as opposed to the pop culture references and dance scenes found in DreamWorks other pictures.  Most of the time, the banter works thanks to the actors speaking it, but Jack Black’s shtick does stretch itself a little thin.  He channels his typical “dude” persona, yet he at least pulls back enough during the weightier elements of the story to give his character a sympathetic, humble side.  The jokes hit more often than not, but most of them revolve Po’s enormous weight and hunger, and they do get repetitive to the point of predictability.  On the other hand, the visual gags are rather inventive with one that combines a Chinese dragon costume and Pacman drawing the biggest laughs.  Like the works of Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan, the slapstick nature of the fighting is both funny and awe-inspiring and manages to have something unique in the style with each progressing scene without retracing its own steps.

Displaying the greatest improvement over the first film is the new story.  The movie wastes no time in recapping its predecessor, nor does it follow it beat for beat.  Instead, it reestablishes the setting and its characters with a new, thoughtful tale that stems from the small, weird fact that Po was raised by a goose, purposely left unexplained in the last chapter.  While the illogical pairing provided a few laughs the first time around, it serves as the foundation of a serious story about Po’s past that deals with a subject matter that few kids films address in today’s society where not every child has a traditional upbringing.  It’s a nice move to wrap the idea of how it’s not where you’re from but how you’re brought up, no matter by who, and shows that in an industry diagnosed with sequelitis, the effort is still made to make an engaging, heartwarming narrative.


Kungfu Panda 2 is an ice cold beer.  It may lack the pleasant surprise the first round had, but it is just as fun with more of a reason to feel for its characters this time around.


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Posted by sean On June - 11 - 2011

Daniel Radcliffe looks fondly towards the horizon, seeing a future career without Harry Potter.


My friend and I arrived at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre as avid Harry Potter fans amped to see Daniel Radcliffe shed his decade-long persona.  It was the first time either of us had been to a Broadway play and we had no idea what to expect.  From the moment we took our seats, the promise of an experience vastly different from any movie screening filled us with excitement that only intensified in the minutes before the curtain opened.  But as the orchestra began the 50’s jazzy overture, we were as yet unaware of how captivating the show was going to be.


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying fires on all cylinders from the opening number and continues to astound all the way through to the grand finale.  While it is fifty years since its inception and is filled with traits of that period, from the wardrobe to the character archetypes, it feels relevant now.  Amplifying the idea of “it’s who you know, not what you know,” it satirizes what is considered today a difficult field in which to get ahead and makes it the easiest thing in the world to ascend in as it follows J. Pierrepont Finch (Daniel Radcliffe) and his climb up the corporate ladder, using his charm, wit, and a handy self-help book from which the play derives its name.  Employing the book’s ingredients for success, Finch rises up in the ranks by gaining popularity with his co-workers and superiors, including company president J. B. Biggley (John Larroquette), while also attracting the attention of a lovely secretary and the boss’s conniving nephew.


Radcliffe sings and dances away all traces of the Boy Who Lived, fully embodying Finch’s youthful ambition to scale the mountain of business and reach its peak.  He has proven himself more than adept to handle the demanding task of a musical, shedding a bright light on his career beyond this past decade.  Also headlining the richly talented cast is John Larroquette, who is fun to watch as Mr. Biggley with his stern, yet goofy demeanor spliced with youthful vigor when performing his own numbers.  Making her Broadway debut, Rose Hemingway plays Finch’s love interest, Rosemary Pilkington.  She’s sweet and lovable as a woman who just wants to be with her one-and-only, and more than once, she delivers an entire musical number by herself and does so flawlessly.  Rounding out the main characters in Finch’s life is Christopher J. Hanke, playing the boss’s nephew, Bud Frump.  He is the epitome of a slimy, mischievous business man, even though he is performs poorly at his job while equally adept at sabotaging the jobs of others.  Hanke revels in his character’s devious, childish nature, delivering multiple laughs for every step he takes and every note he belts out.


Though as talented as the entire cast is, it’s director Rob Ashord who amazes the most with his ability to weave every bit of detail into a tightly-knit production.  How to Succeed works like one big clock as props maneuver in and out of the stage amidst complex routines from a vast crew of performers.  Ashord’s choreography fits each number’s subject in their own unique way and never feels as if the actors are only repeating the same thing over and over.  He incorporates simple, mundane activities, like organizing mail or getting coffee, into interpretive, yet wacky dance moves that feel like you’re watching a circus act.  One such number is Radcliffe and Larroquette’s duet about college football with their dancing taking the form of practice drill and game-winning plays.  Framing all of this is the work of the set and costume designers.  They managed to create a 1950s atmosphere with lavish outfits for everyone and scenery with multiple pieces sliding into the spotlight, from a desk to a three-story tall office interior, that keep a dynamic flow from one scene to the next.


As a fun and wonderfully immersive presentation, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a glass of good scotch.  It will pull you in, keep you laughing from the opening song, and when it’s all over, you will want to go back for another round.

- Sean

My friend and I

Drive Angry

Posted by ron On June - 7 - 2011

Like a used carsalesman Drive Angry promised something sweet but sold you a lemon

A man desperate to re-live his glory days of kicking ass and taking names escaped hell for one last ride to oblivion. Drive Angry was the perfect metaphor for Nicolas Cage’s acting career. Cage was once a bad ass Oscar award winning actor who starred in highly acclaimed films such as Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, and Moonstruck. Once his eccentricities got the best of him, he hit rock bottom and he’s taking any role that his agent can deliver in order to stay out of jail for back taxes owed. Unfortunately Drive Angry was not the fun ride that Con Air was destined to be. Instead, it’s about as exciting a film as Driving Miss Daisy.

Perhaps the bigger badass was Amber Heard whose character got punched in the face by her abusive boyfriend and thrown out the back window of a moving RV. Heard had the most fun as she threw more punches than Cage. Heard certainly got a better gig than her limited appearances in Pineapple Express, Zombieland, and Never Back Down.

Director Patrick Lussier was one of a whole generation of directors making movies inspired from pop culture films of yesterday. While he’s not the only one guilty of living off of his inspirations, he’s guilty of failing to take the genre a step further. Drive Angry was a faux Grindhouse film that tried too hard to milk a few camp laughs. When Lussier directed Cage killing bad guys left and right while having sex, someone should have shown him a similar scene in Clive Owen’s Shoot’em Up. Therein lies the problem with a lot of cinema today. There’s only an interest and not a passion to make something worthy of the time and money spent.

As the accountant, William Fichtner played the devil’s right hand man making sure that Cage paid his dues. While Nicolas Cage still has to pay for the debt he owes, the audience shouldn’t have to pay for this film.

Drive Angry rates as a flat beer baking in the summer heat.



X-men First Class

Posted by ron On June - 3 - 2011

Wouldn't have the same effect if Prof X & Magneto played scrabble now would it?

From Winter's Bone Jennifer Lawrence played Mystique who was not only the franchise's centerpiece but also the most developed mutant to date.

During a time of change, idealism collided with reality as young men and women charged with a gift to change humanity must decide to continue supporting it or establish a new world order in X-men First Class. Loosely based off the Marvel Comic book property, X-men First Class’s over convoluted spy plotted nearly overshadowed the tremendous performance of the Oscar nominated, Jennifer Lawrence as the shape shifter Mystique. Stuck between two mentors, a young flawed idealist Charles Xavier and deeply troubled fascist Eric Lehnsherr she struggled for acceptance not only in the world but also within her evolved species. Sounds familiar? She could easily be mistaken for a black woman rejected for the color of her skin amidst the talk for equality. By far, Mystique was the film’s most developed character and clearly the centerpiece of the Fox produced X-films to date. By the end of the film, she was no longer an unsure, timid girl hiding behind Xavier’s manipulative coddling but a sure, strong woman able to step from a shadow and make her own decisions. Racial prejudice has always been the strength and most relatable concept of the uncanny X-men. While Lawrence’s beauty still shined through blue make up and selectively minimal scales, the audience easily accepted the concept that her character should be as repulsive as a bad case of blue shingles.

What made the X-men property such a hot topic were the all too human flaws of these characters that made the film more identifiable with the source material. James McAvoy’s passive Charles Xavier jutztapozed against Michael Fassbender’s aggressive Erik Lehnsherr served as the film’s lynchpins. One character compensated for the other’s shortcomings as they challenged each other. The rest of the mutants were undeveloped. Havok, Banshee, and Angel Salvadore had no material from which to carve some kind of identity from. Gone Baby Gone’s Edi Gathegi’s talents were wasted in a character that should have worn a red ensign Star Trek uniform with with an X. Similar problem with Emma Frost. January Jones had no material to work with besides fetching Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw a sandwich.
Rose Byrne didn’t have a mutant power but she disappeared quite a bit. As Moria MacTaggert upgraded to CIA agent, we never got a good impression of what was her stake in this conflict. Where were her loyalties? It’s all a jumbled mess except Lawrence’s Mystique whose brief scenes with Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy were decent transition points before he dressed in a horrible Bill the Cat meets cookie monster outfit and piloted the Blackbird.

Director Mathew Vaughn created a sophisticated look of a film that didn’t feel like it was in the 60s outside of the JFK speech delivered. Much like the first X-film, every scene felt self-contained, while X-2 remained the strongest because it was one seamless story with an objective. The plot of the film was ridiculous involving a sub ran by well-dressed mutants plotting to start a nuclear war of divide and conquer. Only problem, what kind of world full of radiation would be worth ruling over? Slight oversight made the film falter in the last third especially in a scene where both the Soviets and USA fire ammunition on the beach thinking that it was the opposing side. Alas, it was all in an effect to construct one loud and impressive crescendo of a final conflict. While it might get a pass from non-comic book fans, fan boys who never needed a play book to keep up could easily see a gaping hole to its design. In the end, X-men First Class wasn’t so much about making a seamless film but a prelaunch that would attract old fans of the films and new ones.

X-men First Class rates as a decent tasting beer but nothing more than a cold one that is tasty but nothing I would want to do again.

Where's my straw goddam it?



Posted by ron On May - 26 - 2011

Stephen Dorff struggles with anhedonia when his loving daughter Cleo is forced to live with him.

You’re rich, you’re repulsive beyond the crap you sell but do I know you?

As self-serving salesmen, today’s media seems to be focused on selling a lifestyle of Kentucky fried manic behavior but beyond the camera would most of America bite if celebrities really led monotonous, disconnected lives? Drawing upon her life experiences of living out of a hotel and traveling with her father, director Sofia Coppola captured the intimacy and existentialism of celebrities living normal monotonous lives in the movie Somewhere.

A script that relies on timing vague emotional nuances.

No stranger to growing up in Hollywood, Dorff played a crazed director in Cecil B. Demented.

Centered around the under utilized Stephen Dorff, he played Johnny, an actor who suffered from anhedonia. He didn’t get pleasure from anything until his daughter Cleo, played by Elle Fanning showed up at his doorstep. Caught up in the break out role he played in, he has to come to terms with his cell phone barking commands on where to go, how to be, and who to meet to continue his career. Clearly not comfortable with his Hollywood image, Johnny battled depression and hateful text messages that might or might not be delusions.


Lost in Translation displayed Sofia Coppola's strengths, the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Existentialism is the new religion in an age where people think of lifestyle first, salary second.

Coppola’s strengths are not in dialogue but in capturing emotion in very spatial intimate areas. In extended shots of silence, the audience has very little to work with but there’s an overwhelming sense of wondering what the character was thinking as time elapses. Every character was thinking something in the hotel but carrying on as if nothing was wrong. When the emotions do bubble up to the surface, it’s an awkward moment down to how it’s shot. The audience wasn’t even sure if that’s the right way to resolve the problem but Coppola did a great job at making it anti-climatic. People do not often carry on making a spectacle out of their problems. These conundrums of problems that every one acknowledges exists but does not react openly are a quality that she has made into an art form.

How to make a film most people won’t understand

For audiences who don’t like to work or feel uncomfortable in extended shots of silence, Somewhere might be a movie that came off pretentious. Therein lies the detached state of existence in LA and more specifically Hollywood. In that sense, Somewhere succeeded because individual will express their judgments regardless. The real question is how do the judged feel about living in own skins?


Somewhere rates as a fine wine, aged to perfection without any extraverted tasted but subtle with character.


Four loko latte' wha?



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Posted by sean On May - 23 - 2011

Jack Sparrow returns in a new adventure as he sails the seas and treks through jungles in search of the franchise's lost sense of fun.


Disney takes another dip into one of their properties with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which sees the return of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he chases after the Fountain of Youth, and while it’s nice to see the charismatic trickster from the previous trilogy, he barely keeps this latest installment afloat with the burden of a convoluted plot bound together with mediocre action.


Disney sought to scale back on the fourth entry, slashing the budget while trying to get back to the core of what made, at least the first film, a fun, daring adventure.  An understandable approach if they didn’t want to foot the money to top the climatic whirlpool of At World’s End, but the attempt to return the series to its so-called roots leaves the movie seeming like its missing more than an abundance of CGI shots.  From the streets of London to the jungles of the Caribbean, the story follows Jack resuming his search for the Fountain of Youth.  Competing with him are his old enemy, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), under the banner of the British crown; his new nemesis, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), hoping to prolong his wicked life; and the Spanish, who serve little to the tale.  In the midst of all of these paths, On Stranger Tides musters a couple of entertaining scenarios, most notably an attack by ravenous mermaids that utilizes more tension than action to provide the thrills.  Unfortunately, scenes like that display the extent of the film’s creativity while the rest feels uninspired as if while looking at the script, Disney execs kept asking themselves “what can we do that’s cheaper?”


More damaging to the movie is the uneven focus spread over the different characters. Jack Sparrow steps to the forefront as the lead character but proves very quickly how you shouldn’t have too much of a good thing.  His first appearance had him balanced with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, giving him plenty of screen time to revel in his inebriated nature without wearing out his welcome, but three movies later, his mannerisms are more predictable, and he now has to fill up more runtime with a retread of his usual quips and cons.  Ironically, this additional emphasis on him makes him appear less like the main protagonist.  With no crew and no ship, he has fallen in with the nameless deckhands and is basically just along for the ride.  For once, those who forget to say “captain” before his name aren’t wrong.  On the other hand, the film provides Geoffrey Rush’s alter ego with a new direction for him to explore as a man who has lost the most and is itching to settle a score.  Had the script delved a little deeper into the former foe, this might have been Barbossa’s story with Sparrow working off of him.  Beyond the rivals, Angelica has enough of her own charisma to clash with Sparrow’s, but again, there’s only so little of the 130 minutes to share.  More time with her past with Jack is instead sacrificed for Phillip, a young missionary, and his soap-opera affection for the mermaid, Syrena.  Meant to fill the romantic vacancy left by Bloom and Knightley, their arc garners little interest as Phillip woodenly delivers scripture-like words of adoration to Syrena that only have the power of freezing the film’s pace. Even less buyable is Phillip shouting at Blackbeard about his irredeemable ways, and while Blackbeard has the presence of a formidable villain thanks to McShane’s performance, the script undermines his vile reputation as it leaves the audience wondering why he doesn’t just kill the missionary whenever he opens his mouth.


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is more disappointing than bad as it constantly shows signs of what could’ve been a better, tighter installment with the same amount of fun as the first movie, and for that, it is a warm beer.  It may be under the same brand you’ve enjoyed before, but it’s nothing compared to when it was fresh out of the cooler.


The Green Hornet

Posted by ron On May - 18 - 2011

Rogen plays his hand in the Super Hero biz. Unfortunately, it had less to do with crime fighting and more to do with hanging out.

In yet another tale of a bratty rich kid who was manipulated into reaching outside of himself to do some good, the Green Hornet was writer/actor Seth Rogen’s nostalgic tongue in cheek bromance to super heroes. Every super hero is a product of its time and the Green Hornet might be one of those heroes. While Gondry did a solid job updating the psychedelic look and massaging the awkward elements such as a minority manservant, it’s still set in Seth Rogen’s mind of naive LA suburb where drug lords are operating out of strip malls without an illegal Mexican or Asian in sight. It’s clear, Rogen was influenced by the 60s TV show of the Green Hornet but he took Britt to the low brow level of a dense buffoon. Britt never bothered to ask Kato why he’s rigging muscle cars with weaponry or what exactly he was doing for his father. Instead, he throws more money at Kato taking his word that he’s not a Korean drug lord using his dad’s money and company to fund his operation. Obviously all Asians including this writer are truthful and trustworthy right?

Let’s assume that Kato checks out. The bromance was 20 minutes too long with repetitious cool looking gadgets, bonding over beers, and jealously over fighting skills when it should have been spent on building up the nemesis for the Green Hornet, Christoph Waltz’s Bloodnofsky. Waltz did his best to work as a suave gangster without a cool nickname, reputation, or costume but his efforts are wasted. The plot was so shallow, there’s no rhyme or reason why his villainous character was doing what he’s doing.

The challenge of super hero films today caters towards motivations that have to be plausible enough for such an extreme or fantastical execution of a theatrical story. There’s very little to the Green Hornet that would require a pampered clown to get his hands dirty when he could have easily funded someone more competent to take care of the situation. Plot holes the size of the San Fernando Valley made the elaborate shoot out at Britt’s media empire HQ obligatory without any stakes raised. It was at that point the Green Hornet felt more like a theme ride than justice.

Wasted talents of a solid supporting cast and a visionary director rate the Green Hornet as a beer on tap that is drinkable but doesn’t quench my thirst for something fun.




Posted by ron On May - 16 - 2011

No bible salesman, Paul Bettany played the man with no name but one humongous marker on his face

An unemployed fighting monk defied the Catholic Church in order to reconcile with a missing person whose ties go back before his days fighting vampires. Loosely based off the manga, Priest was futuristic martial arts Western where science met supernatural. Beneath this thick as pea soup mixture of genres was a tale about faith and compassion but too much self-indulgent homage to influential genres prevented the development of character depth. Thus, the story could never move forward with any emotional stakes.

Paul Bettany continued his desperate bid to become a super human character. Much like Legion, he has no material to breathe life into one dimensional character designed to look and act like a stone cold vampire killer but very little levity into the motivations of the character and why he would remain so conflicted with the Church that took away so many years of his life.

Karl Urban and Maggie Q had even less to work with as themes of forbidden repressed love, respect, and rivalry are shoehorned into the film and resolved in less than 5 minutes with a flashback scene.

This film had more questions than it had answers. Where did the very alien looking vampires come from? How did the Catholic Church adopt Martial Arts in their war against the Vampires? How does the Church know who was gifted enough to be a Priest? Why would they retire the Priests with so many people in need? What do the Priests have within them that made them more powerful than the vampires? How does this society operate? Why does the walled city of the Church always produce ash to the point of blocking out the sun? Never mind, this was a story with religious themes. Where does God play into this story? As more questions grew, it became clear that this film was more of a product in form than function.

Perhaps the biggest question is, are there any redeeming factors in this film? The 2-D animation benefited from the added postproduction 3-D effects and might be the best way to save old school animation cell techniques. Hopefully, one observant person picked it out and will use that to promote better thought out ideas. Alas, Priest had very little recognizable characteristics of a vampire hunter story outside of the obvious crucifix and one scene showing a Nosferatu looking queen. By the time the vampires’ plot was revealed, it had little resemblance to a Western as well. With acting faxed in from a bad Xerox copy, this film was the equivalent of Castlevania 3000.

If I had to rate Priest, it’s a lukewarm pint on a humid day. That is, it never quenched your thirst but on a dry unbearable day with no alternative and your last dollar on the table, you’ll take it.



morris review

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About Me

Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief



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